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Like A Phoenix

Hawthornes Cafe is a Philly brunch & beer mainstay. Unfortunately about a year and a half ago, a devastating fire put them out of commission and left the Bella Vista neighborhood without one of their favorite bottle shops for almost a year. But like a phoenix, Hawthornes rose from the ashes and reopened better then ever this past spring – even becoming one of the first places in town to launch beer delivery! I stopped in on an unseasonably cold fall evening to warm up with a dark beer and one of their burgers. They have two options: the House burger, which is just your standard Angus beef patty topped with three-year aged Gouda and LTO, and the Hawthornes burger, topped with crumbled danish blue cheese, over easy egg, avocado & chipotle aioli. A fried egg AND avocado? Um yeah, I wanted that one!

The burger came out topped with a jiggly egg yolk just waiting to be cracked open. I smeared a little ketchup on the top of my brioche bun, pressed down and POP! Out oozed all that delicious yellow yolk. The patty was cooked perfectly to medium, the avocado was bright green and fresh, the chipotle aioli creamy with a kick, and the blue cheese crumbles gave the burger a nice, salty flavor without being overpowering like some blue cheese topped burgers I’ve had in the past. I used the bulk of the burger to sop up all the delicious yolk with every bite. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a burger that was so good I wanted to eat it again immediately afterwards. Everything about this burger was just perfection; a great treat on a chilly evening.

I’m glad to see that Hawthornes is back and thriving. You should check it out for yourself on Saturday, November 7th when they host their annual Fall Block Party. It’s a free event with fire pits, hay bales and of course – Beer! But make sure you hit the ATM beforehand as the event is cash only! Hope to see you guys there!

Burger rating: “A+”

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Prime Time

The best part about going home to visit my parents is getting to try new burgers in new places. This trip took us to craft beer & burger joint, Prime 16 in Orange, CT. As our waiter informed us, the kitchen is entirely a scratch kitchen – everything from their sauces to their dressings and in between. They also partner with local farms and businesses for all the other products (meat, veggies, beers), and the beef used in the burgers in 100% grass-fed, hormone-free Angus beef. There were so many different burger varieties, it was hard to decide which one to choose! But I went with the Cowboy: topped with cheddar, smoked Canadian bacon, lettuce & a fried egg since this was the closest to my usual go-to burger. I also upgraded to truffle fries because, truffle fries, duh!

The burger was massive and came on an equally massive (but proportional) potato roll. The burger was nice and juicy, albeit cooked slightly over my requested medium to medium well. The cheddar was gooey and the fried egg was just undercooked enough to let a little bit of yolk mingle in with the meat without making a big mess. The Canadian bacon was tasty and not chewy, as it can sometimes tend to be (like on an Egg McMuffin). You could definitely taste the freshness of the meat. I really appreciate when a restaurant sources their meat locally, using fresh instead of frozen patties. It really makes a big difference! The lettuce underneath the burger acted kind of like a “diaper” to soak up the juices, avoiding that dreaded soggy bottom bun. My only issues were 1) the side of pico de gallo which seemed out of place with the rest of the toppings, so I didn’t utilize it and 2) the truffle fries weren’t nearly as truffle-y as I would have liked, but probably for the best since some places tend to overload the truffle oil and then you can’t taste anything else. There was also a bacon STUFFED burger on the menu that I was checking out, so I’ll have to make another trip home soon to check it out!

Burger rating: “B”

National Hamburger Month

In case you didn’t know, May is National Hamburger Month. As part of the celebration, Iron Hill Brewery creates a special burger for every day in the month of May. I’ve been meaning to get to one of their locations for the past few years to check it out, but haven’t had a chance until this past weekend.

The burger listed on the day that I stopped in was the Jersey Diner burger: topped with a fried egg, cheddar, ketchup and New Jersey’s greatest export: Taylor Ham aka Pork Roll. I grew up outside New York City, so I was unfamiliar with pork roll until I moved to Philadelphia (I was also a little bit skeptical about eating it until recently). I ordered my burger medium and it came out slightly more on the medium-well side; not even a little bit of pink in the middle, despite my dining partner ordering his burger medium-rare, which was plenty pink. While I enjoy a fried egg on my burger, I kind of wished the egg had been slightly runny to give the meat a little bit more flavor and make it less dry. There was a lot of ooey, gooey cheese, which I liked. The pork roll itself was pretty tasty, with a touch of saltiness to it. The burger to bun ratio was perfect, with the burger sitting between a shiny, soft brioche bun. The coleslaw on the side was decent as well. If i had gotten a less “breakfast-y” sandwich, I might have opted to put some coleslaw on top.

I’m going out of town for the next week & a half, so I’ll only have a few days left at the end of the month if I want to try more of Iron Hill’s special Burger Month burgers (I’m upset that I’m missing out on the Yogi Bear burger – topped with all your picnic basket favorites like potato salad & onion rings). I’ll be eating my way through Nashville & Louisville and can’t wait to share with you guys all the tasty treats the South has to offer!

Burger rating: “C+”

Flying South

When the weather gets cold, the birds migrate south to warmer weather. So on one of the chilliest days yet this Fall, I decided to head south to the cozy shelter of South Philly Tap Room for brunch. I’d been meaning to get down here for quite some time to check out their breakfast burger: a 100% grass fed beef burger topped with thick strips of bacon & a fried egg.

The burger is accompanied by a bowl of hollandaise sauce, homemade ketchup, and a small pickle salad (hidden behind the bun). I ordered the burger medium as usual, and found it to be slightly more on the medium-well side, but with a nicely charred exterior; the sign of a great grill-master. Between the char and the use of 100% grass fed beef, it gave the burger a great overall flavor. The homemade ketchup was delicious (despite my preference for high fructose corn syrup enriched Heinz). The hollandaise sauce left a little to be desired. It was starting to congeal slightly & I just thought, presentation wise, it was awkward to be in such a big bowl. It was pretty tasty though once I put it on the burger and I even dipped my fries in it. The ciabatta bun was soft and thick, perfect to soak up all the juices from the beef and the runny yolk of the egg without getting soggy. And the bacon was the best! Nice, crispy, thick slabs – not some whimpy Oscar Mayer bullshit! All in all, a fairly solid bar burger.

Burger rating: B

Working out the Kinks

As most good burger adventures of mine also involve great beer, I optimized my latest burger eating experience by partaking in the biannual Philly beer event known as the Craft Beer Express.  I had been trying to get around to The Sidecar bar for quite some time, and it just so happened that this fun beer crawl aimed to land me there right in time for dinner (as well as for some much needed alcohol absorption). Scoping out the menu beforehand, I knew I wanted to try the “Kinky” burger as it came topped with a crispy poached egg, gruyere and truffle mayo.

The burger was cooked to well done, despite being requested medium (they were pretty slammed with all the beer bussers, so I’ll give them a pass). The bun was a ciabatta roll, which was good for containing the egg yolk drippings, but sadly, the patty was much too small and I had a pretty good bit of bun leftover. (Luckily, there was truffle mayo and egg yolk to dip my excess bun in!)

Overall, I thought the components of the burger worked pretty well together. I love truffle mayo and I love unique buns. And it was so cool how they had the crispy outside on the poached egg; it had my drunk little brain working overtime to figure out how they make it! I’d love to try this burger again at the right temperature.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: I paired the burger with the Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout from Ommegang Brewery! (Because Jon Snow is fine as hell, ya’ll)

Burger rating: “B”

Do a Barrel Roll

I’d already been to Bainbridge Street Barrel House to try their french toast burger, so it was high time I got back around to trying one of the other awesome burgers on their menu. This time I opted for the Sally Smothers: a delicious 8 oz Pat LaFrieda blend patty topped with fried shallot, provolone, mayo, pancetta and a fried egg. It sounded like perfection on a bun! (Put a fried egg and any type of pork product on a burger and I’m yours forever.)

The burger came out cooked perfectly to medium, as requested. The yolk was nice and runny, mixing deliciously with the beef, adding a little extra juice to that already tasty LaFrieda meat. The shallots were nice and crispy as well. But be forewarned: this burger was MASSIVE! I almost didn’t finish the whole thing. But it was too amazing for me to not eat it all; I couldn’t let it defeat me! And despite being another brioche bun, I liked that it was seeded and less shiny than the buns used at other places. (It reminded me of the buns that they used to use at Pub & Kitchen.)

Look at that big bun! It definitely held up nicely with the combination of meat juices & egg yolk, and was perfectly proportional to that colossal patty.

Burger Rating: “B+”

Thai one on at Circles

Circles is the quintessential Thai hot spot in Philadelphia, with locations in South Philly and Northern Liberties. And in honor of the NoLibs’ location launching their new lunch menu (hmm, seems to be a new lunch trend!), they recently gave away free – yes FREE! – burgers to kick things off. Naturally, I had to be there to check it out and braving a three-day heat wave, I made my way in to Circles just before noon to try their Sai Oar burger:  Ground lamb and beef sirloin topped with fried onions, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar and served with tomatillo sauce.

The burger came out with a really cool fried tempura onion on top and a side of chips and pico de gallo. I loved the lamb/meat mix. It made the burger really juicy and succulent, and the fried egg was a great touch (because who doesn’t love a fried egg on a burger?). I love the gooey, yolky mess that you get and can soak up with the bun. There were a lot of really nice flavors throughout the whole dish, from the sweetness of the tomatillo sauce to the crisp tang of cilantro in the pico. I mean, a burger from a contemporary Asian restaurant? Who’da thunk it!?

Pair it with a Thai Iced Tea (AKA ‘that orange thing everyone’s drinking’ – said by the guy sitting next to me) and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable lunch combo!

Burger rating: “B+”

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